Current Weather
The Spy FM

Chimney Rock Becomes Newest National Monument

Filed by KOSU News in US News.
September 21, 2012

President Obama named a new national monument on Friday: Chimney Rock in southwestern Colorado. With two sandstone spires soaring from a mesa, not only is Chimney Rock a spectacular place; it also provides a fascinating glimpse into the ancient people who lived in that region more than 1,000 years ago.

The moon usually rises south of the stone towers at Chimney Rock, but every 18 or 19 years, the moon rises directly between the two huge pillars. This feature seems to have been especially important to a society known as the ancestral Pueblo people. They built their largest building — what archaeologists call their “great house” — to have a perfect view of this astronomical wonder.

Archaeologist Steve Lekson says that this great house is actually still standing at Chimney Rock, and it is a remarkable sight. “The location is just stunning,” he says. “And then they architecturally positioned themselves on that ridge out near those two huge pillars to make that thing really impressive.”

As a tall, square, 40-room palace with ornate masonry, the great house is the centerpiece of the settlement. The house’s design stands apart from the simple, circular houses where farmers and commoners would live.

Chimney Rock is the third national monument President Obama has created, the distinction owing to this feature’s rich heritage and natural scenery. As a national monument, the area surrounding Chimney Rock will now see more protection, and also more money.

The monument was one of many outposts of the much larger Chaco Canyon settlement in northern New Mexico, about 55 miles away. An experiment done by a high school student, and the discovery of fireboxes at both sites, led archaeologists to believe that the settlements were able to communicate with smoke signals.

“[The student] had her mom stand at one end, down towards Chaco, and she flashed mirrors at Chimney Rock, or vice versa,” Lekson says.

Brenda Todd is one of the experts who has argued that Chimney Rock was a colony of Chaco. Before she started studying Chimney Rock for her Ph.D., she got a taste of its magic. In 2006, she hiked up to the great house at Chimney Rock and watched the lunar standstill. “We saw the moon rise between the pillars that night, and it was pretty amazing,” she says.

Visitors to the new national monument won’t get to view that astronomical sight for many years. In the meantime, though, there’s lots to learn there about the people who lived in the American Southwest. [Copyright 2012 National Public Radio]

Leave a Reply

5AM to 9AM Morning Edition

Morning Edition

For more than two decades, NPR's Morning Edition has prepared listeners for the day ahead with two hours of up-to-the-minute news, background analysis, commentary, and coverage of arts and sports.

Listen Live Now!

9AM to 10AM The Takeaway

The Takeaway

A fresh alternative in morning news, "The Takeaway" provides a breadth and depth of world, national and regional news coverage that is unprecedented in public media.

View the program guide!

10AM to 11PM On Point

On Point

On Point unites distinct and provocative voices with passionate discussion as it confronts the stories that are at the center of what is important in the world today. Leaving no perspective unchallenged, On Point digs past the surface and into the core of a subject, exposing each of its real world implications.

View the program guide!

Upcoming Events in your area (Submit your event today!)

Streaming audio and podcasts

Stream KOSU on your smartphone

Phone Streaming

SmartPhone listening options on this page are intended for many iPhones, Blackberries, etc. with low-cost software applications available to listen to our full-time web streams, both News on KOSU-1 and Classical on KOSU-2.

Learn more about our complete range of streaming services

We're perfecting the patient experience - Stillwater Medical Center